Democrats lash out at NPR defunding attempt

Republican Dan Lungren (Calif.) said Slaughter's remarks show Democrats are trying to equate funding with NPR with funding for national defense. "If you believe NPR is as important to this nation as national defense, then reject the rule and reject the bill," he said.

Republicans argued generally that the bill, H.R. 1076, would only prohibit federal funds to be used by local radio stations to pay NPR membership dues or buy programing, and would only affect about five percent of NPR's revenues. The GOP said NPR received about $5 million in federal funds in FY 2010 from various sources.

But Democrats argued that the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that ending federal funds for NPR would do nothing to reduce the deficit, and critiqued the GOP process for bringing the bill to the floor through an emergency meeting on Wednesday to approve a rule.

"The process in this House is awful," Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said, referencing the emergency meeting. "Do you think it was about jobs, do you think it was about healthcare? No, it was about defunding NPR. That's what this new majority thinks is an emergency."

Republicans moved on the bill quickly after an NPR fundraiser was caught on video criticizing the Tea Party movement, which led to a surge in Republican criticism that NPR is biased against conservatives.

The House Rules Committee calls "emergency meetings" as a way of convening the committee without the usual three-day notice in order to prepare bills for the floor, and Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) said Thursday that this practice took place under Democratic control as well.

Dreier also questioned Democratic comments that NPR is a "national treasure" that needs to be preserved. "I think that the term 'national treasure' may just be a little bit of a stretch," he said.

The House began debate on the rule for H.R. 1076 shortly after convening at 9 a.m., and is expected to vote on the rule and the bill later in the day.